Interview: DOWNTON ABBEY'S Dan Stevens and Cara Theobold
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The Great War is over and a long-awaited engagement is on, but all is not tranquil at DOWNTON ABBEY as wrenching social changes, romantic intrigues, and personal crises grip the majestic English country estate for a third thrilling season.
With the return of its all-star cast plus guest star Academy Award®-winner Shirley MacLaine, DOWNTON ABBEY, Season 3 airs over seven Sundays on PBS beginning on January 6, 2013. BWW brings you a series of interviews with the award-winning cast of this popular PBS series. Next up, actors Dan Stevens and Cara Theobold.
AN INTERVIEW WITH Dan Stevens
The plot point in series three of Downton Abbey that most excited Dan Stevens was nothing to do with marriages, inheritances or scandals. It was getting to play some cricket, 1920s style.
Stevens is a keen cricketer himself, and loves the game. He says getting dressed up in flannels and striding out to the middle at Highclere’s own cricket pitch was a dream come true.
“It was perfection. I was all padded up, out in the middle, had an entire team of extras bowling at me and fielding. And when I got out, I was able to stay in so we could do another take.”
Apart from making a few runs, however, Matthew Crawley has some other rather pressing matters to cope with this series.
“Firstly it’s preparations for the wedding. Obviously we left after getting engaged at the end of the Christmas episode last year. And now he’s looking to settle down with Mary.”
Matthew is also looking to find his role in the estate he is set to inherit.
“It’s a question of whether they’re going to stick around or not. Matthew’s a bit iffy about staying in the house. I think he wants a certain amount of independence before taking on Downton. So I think it’s his idea that maybe they’ll go and live elsewhere. And then as the series progresses he gets a bit more involved with the estate and sees a few weak spots in the management.”
Having to face up to organisational problems that previously they had been able to ignore was a common problem for large estates between the wars.
“I think a lot of houses of about this time, throughout the last century had to reappraise the way they were doing things. You just have to accept that a lot of these houses were just eating into their capital.”
The question is whether Matthew is able to – and indeed wants to – do anything about it.
“There’s a slight lack of sensitivity on Matthew’s part that I think, occasionally shows its face... well let’s just say he doesn’t always pick his moments in the best way. So, yes, that’s a big part of what he’s up to this year.”
Matthew’s relationship with Mary, so often a source of fireworks and heartbreak, has evolved, says Stevens.
“His relationship with Mary has changed. They’ve both matured a little. I think it’s that growing sense of responsibility becoming more of a reality. The older they get the further on it goes and the more involved he gets in the estate.”
First though, the wedding. Britain will be expecting something on the scale of William and Kate last year...
“I don’t know if they’ll quite get that! The kiss on the balcony? I don’t think so. But, yes, they won’t be disappointed. It will look very beautiful. Michelle [Dockery] looked fantastic in the dress.”
Truth be told, Stevens is more concerned with the car he gets to drive in this series.
“It was an early AC. It was really, really gorgeous and actually, quite easy to drive. I just had the most fun - I think that comes in a close second to the cricket. I mean lots of vintage car driving... and cricket! What more can you ask?”
AN INTERVIEW WITH CARA THEOBOLD
Cara Theobold’s acting CV currently reads one audition, one job.
“Downton Abbey is the only audition I’ve ever had. I left my final year at drama school early, at Easter, and came straight to this. Before I went to drama school I hadn’t had any professional experience whatsoever. So to get something like this is incredible... I don’t think it will ever sink in.”
Theobold, from Wakefield, plays Ivy, the new kitchen maid.
“Ivy is a young Yorkshire lass. She previously worked as a Maid of All Work for a shopkeeper in Malton and then her Mum put her up for the job wanting her to better herself and work at the glorious Downton Abbey. She got the job as the new kitchen maid, so she is essentially doing Daisy’s old jobs.”
This means that Daisy, previously the lowest rung on the ladder, now has someone of her own to boss about.
“Ivy is just your typical young girl, very curious and enjoys meeting people but gets bashed down a bit by Daisy. She is the kind of girl who couldn’t possibly understand why anyone wouldn’t like her,” says Theobold, although the fact that Ivy likes to flirt with both of the two new footmen, Alfred and Jimmy, probably doesn’t endear her to Daisy.
Theobald had her audition before Christmas last year.
“I found out that I had got a recall and then I spent the Christmas holidays with all my family on tenterhooks because my parents are such massive fans of the show. I had a few more rounds and then got the part and here I am. It is amazing. I couldn’t be more thrilled. I am a massive fan of the show myself anyway. And just to be able to be in such an ensemble and get to be in a scene and watch Jim Carter do his stuff is like ‘Oh my god – I am actually here!’”
She says the rest of the cast have made her feel right at home.
“Everyone is so welcoming and lovely and I couldn’t ask for a better first experience. Because everybody is a unit and they have worked together for two years and genuinely are like a family, it is quite easy to take newcomers on board. I think Matt [Milne] and Ed [Speleers] have found the same. They are such a lovely group of people it’s quite easy to just tag along and slot in and I have had nothing but a good time. I can’t believe it.”
Not only has Theobold landed her dream role on one of television’s biggest shows, but she’s picked up some new skills along the way.
“I’ve learned how to make jam. And I am now a dab hand at whisking. I can even shell peas now. I had never shelled a pea before.”
As a fan of the show she says she was excited just to visit the sets, let alone call them her workplace.
“The first day I was in the kitchen. I came in and I thought, ‘Oh, it is actually a kitchen!’ Water comes out of the taps. The oven heats up and it is so beautiful and the detail, I mean I just love all that. You feel immediately like, ‘Gosh, I am a maid in the kitchen’. The detail makes you feel you are in that world.”
But with her parents big fans she says she has had to warn them about fishing for plot spoilers.
“I tell them, ‘If I told you anything I’d have to kill you!’ I like being dramatic about not letting them know anything but they are just thrilled. And to be honest my Mum really doesn’t want to know what happens because she is such a big fan. She just can’t wait to watch it.”